As one of the country's best bass tournament competitors, Rye resident Mark Kile earns a comfortable living doing what most look forward to only on weekends fishing.
Although angling as an occupation sounds like fun and games, it's also plenty of hard work and preparation, Kile said.
"Besides the tournaments," he said, "there are promotional activities, video presentations, seminars, classes, boat shows and television that you have to do."
It's those types of public relations, Kile said, that attract sponsors, which are the key to a tournament angler's success.
Due to his consistently strong tournament showings since he turned pro 12 years ago, Kile has been able to attract several major sponsors. Among them are Yamaha, Skeeter and Bill Luke Dodge in Phoenix.
Those sponsors help him pay the considerable expenses of traveling and competing in tournaments around the United States.
One of his most recent outings was to Hot Springs, Ark., where he was entered into the Bass Fisherman's Hall of Fame Tournament. Kile said the invitation to compete was an honor since he was one of only three western U.S. fishermen selected to be part of the 50-person tournament field.
Competing against the best bass anglers in the country was also "a lot of fun even though I finished in the middle of the pack," Kile said.
With over 40 tournament wins to his credit, Kile is one of a select few western fishermen to ever qualify for the prestigious BASS Masters Classic.
He earned a berth in 1998 when the tournament was held near Greensboro, N.C.
By qualifying for the nationally known bass tourney, Kile was the subject of numerous flattering articles published around the country.
With several big name sponsors and a stellar reputation, Kile finds himself on the doorstep to the pinnacle of fishing success.
This week, his jam-packed agenda includes a visit to Lake Pleasant where he will videotape a presentation on lures and structure fishing. That video will be just one of several that Kile has produced.
Another, "Bass Fishing Arizona Lakes," is a hot item among state fishermen looking for angling tips.
Although Kile hasn't kept official records of his career earnings, he is one of only three Arizona fishermen who is able to make a living solely on the tournament circuit.
Among his recent wins are eight boats, two trucks and a $7,500 paycheck for a 21st place finish in a Michigan tournament.
Becoming one of the best
Ask Kile what the keys to his career success are and without hesitation he'll reply, "I grew up with a good family. And as a Christian man, I've think I've been blessed."
Also important, he said, is a supportive wife.
Kile is married to Johnna Chilson of Payson, and the two are currently building a home near Rye where they own several acres of land.
In looking back on his career, Kile remembers his outdoor interests being nurtured as a four year old while fishing with his father in a reservoir near his hometown of Piccacho.
Later, as a student at Casa Grande High School, his fascination with fishing flourished during frequent trips to Arizona lakes.
After graduation from high school, he enrolled at Central Arizona College with an eye on majoring in wildlife management.
"At CAC I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to be able to fish for a living," Kile said.
After earning an Associate's degree at CAC, he transferred to the University of Arizona to study wildlife fishing management.
Today, Kile said if he has any career regrets it would be that he didn't major in business. With that major, he would have fared well in the business world that has him filing lengthy quarterly reports to sponsors and tournament officials, he said.
After college, it was a clerk's job at Fisherman's Choice in Phoenix that opened tournament doors.
"That got me in and I met a lot of the factory representatives and fishermen who could help me (become a professional angler)," Kile said.
Also, the job provided a steady income while he suffered through the frustrations of molding himself into a successful professional angler.
Early in his career, he fished mostly on the AllStar Bass circuit and as a member of the Canyon Bass Club.
A couple of wins on those tourney trails convinced him he was ready to expand his horizons on the BASS Master and Forest L. Wood circuits. Since joining those, Kile has been able to showcase his considerable fishing skills in the U,S. Open at Lake Mead and several other tournaments that he once only dreamed of fishing.
Kile admits the road to professional fishing success is a rocky one that only a select handful will ever attain. But, for those determined to take a shot at the career, he has solid advice: "If you really have a desire, through work and effort, you can do it."